From Getty and Reuters to 500px and Flickr, there are tons of stock image repositories with thousands of photos covering the gamut of human experience. Searching for the perfect one is kind of like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Appropriately named startup Haystack was created to help people find the right image faster by aggregating 19 of the biggest stock image services. The stock image search engine uses artificial intelligence and image recognition to match search queries with the correct images.
Using their website, users can pull from some of the most well-known image repositories including Getty Images , Reuters, Image Source, and the Science Photo Library.
The site was co-founded by travel photographer Andrew Rowat and Vache Asatryan. In interviews, Rowat has stated that Haystack won’t integrate micro-stock services because he doesn’t want to put downward pressure on the photography market, which is good.
We tested out their search functionality with some basic queries and a couple very narrow searches. At first blush, it seems that the site and the tech behind it are more than up to the task.
Since it’s fall, our first search was a simple query for “Autumn.” You can see in the image at the top of the story that the first 10 or so images don’t look very Autumn-focused, but as we scrolled through the over 800,000+ results the images definitely began to reflect our search far better.
If you hover an image, the site tells you where the image is being sourced from. You can also click the image which brings up a lightbox that provides information like image dimensions, creator name, and keywords.
To test out the image recognition and AI, we tried a longer, more specific, still Autumn-themed query of “Thanksgiving Dinner Outdoors at Night.” The search took a little longer to return results, which was to be expected. However, the wait time was maybe 10 seconds, if that. Nothing to complain about, in other words.
At first glance, it did a great job. Right away there are Thanksgiving images at night. However, we noticed that a lot of images from Stocksy were being pulled in that featured indoor, daytime feasting. So, we removed Stocksy as a source and the results got even better. The ability to narrow searches down to one or a few sources is a nice touch.
Obviously, not every image fit our query but enough did that we can mark it as successful.
Once you find an image you like, Haystack takes you directly to the stock agency it came from, where you can then purchase the image. Haystack, while free to use, takes its cut at that point.
We do want to note that the website for Haystack, is haystack.im. Make sure to use the .IM domain name. It turns out there is another company called Haystack that makes privacy storage apps for phones and they use the extremely similar website name haystack.it. There’s also a haystack.tv. It can get confusing, but remember, it’s haystack.im, not .it or .tv.